Rapid Recap: No. 22 Northwestern 24, Minnesota 14


Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Cameron Green reaches over a defender to make a catch. Many things went right for Green and the Wildcats in their 24-14 win over Minnesota on Saturday.

Ella Brockway, Reporter


MINNEAPOLIS — It wasn’t the flashiest of wins, but Northwestern got the job done.

The Wildcats stretched their Big Ten road winning streak to eight games with a 24-14 victory over Minnesota on a frigid Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium.

NU’s defense shined during the first quarter, allowing the Golden Gophers only 65 yards of offense. Senior linebacker Nate Hall had two interceptions; his second pickoff set up NU’s first scoring drive of the game, which ended in a 2-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Isaiah Bowser.

The Golden Gophers punched back in the second quarter, sacking Clayton Thorson to end a promising drive deep in Minnesota territory and scoring on the ensuing drive to tie the game. In response, NU moved the ball 55 yards down the field in 66 seconds and took a 13-7 lead into halftime on a 13-yard quarterback keeper-turned-touchdown by Thorson, who finished with his first 200-plus yard performance since Oct. 13.

Thorson’s 68-yard throw to freshman wide receiver JJ Jefferson — his longest of the game — set up another 2-yard Bowser touchdown run that gave the Cats a 21-7 lead three minutes into the fourth quarter. A Jake Collins field goal increased NU’s lead later in the fourth quarter, and Minnesota could respond only with a garbage-time touchdown.


1. NU’s defense held solid. The Cats came into this game missing three of their four starting defensive backs: Montre Hartage, Trae Williams and Jared McGee. Facing Minnesota’s strong receiving corps, led by 1,000-yard receiver Tyler Johnson, was no easy feat. But the NU defense stepped up and made big plays; beyond the Hall interceptions, only three of Tanner Morgan’s 25 pass attempts were for more than 15 yards. Sophomore safety Travis Whillock led the Cats in tackles for the third straight game, finishing with a career-high 15.

2. Thorson finally had a big game. It finally happened: Thorson threw for more than 200 yards. After five straight games with fewer than 170 passing yards, Thorson responded with one of his best games of the year, statistically speaking, totaling 230 yards on 15-of-21 passing. It was his seventh rushing touchdown of the season in the second quarter that gave NU the lead, and then his ninth pass for more than 30 yards this season to Jefferson to set up the Bowser score that assured it.

3. It was another bright moment in a historic season. The win over the Golden Gophers pushes NU’s record to 7-4 overall, gives the Cats’ a 7-1 mark in Big Ten play for the first time since 1996 and means Pat Fitzgerald’s team will finish with at least seven wins for the fourth straight season. NU’s divisional fate was sealed with last week’s Big Ten West-clinching win over Iowa, so this game had no true bearing on the end result of the Cats’ season, but the seventh win will boost NU’s resume when it comes to bowl placement next month.

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